Year Two Day 250 Obama Administration September 27, 2010 - History

Year Two Day 250 Obama Administration September 27, 2010 - History


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8:00AM THE PRESIDENT is interviewed live on NBC Today Show

Green Room

10:15AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing

Oval Office

10:45AM THE PRESIDENT meets with senior advisors

Oval Office

12:10PM THE PRESIDENT hosts an on-the-record conference call with college and university student-journalists

Oval Office

1:45PM THE PRESIDENT signs the Small Business Jobs Act East Room

5:00PM THE PRESIDENT departs the White House South Lawn

5:15PM THE PRESIDENT departs Andrews Air Force Base en route Albuquerque, New Mexico

MDT  6:55PM THE PRESIDENT arrives Albuquerque, New Mexico Kirtland Air Force Base


$250 stimulus check in 2010 for Social Security Recipients

President Obama has recently announced that there will be a one-time $250 stimulus check in 2010 to recipients of Social Security. This bonus check is part of of his ongoing effort to stimulate the economy out of recession. Please note that Congress has yet to approve this bill.

[Edit – This check was supposed to have been paid out in the first quarter of 2010. Given that the first quarter just ended and there is no check it looks like this issue is dead and there will be no $250 stimulus check in 2010.]

Who is eligible for the $250 stimulus check in 2010?

Anyone who is currently receiving Social Security (SS) payments will be eligible for the $250 check. There are also some other groups who will receive this check including SSI and disabled veterans.

When will the $250 checks be paid out?

It is not known at this time when the payments will be made but it is likely that they will be paid in the first quarter of 2010 (ie before the end of March).

Is there any income limit for the $250 payment?

No, it doesn’t matter if you have other income or if you are working or not. It doesn’t matter how much income you make – you will still get the check.

How much will this cost the government?

According to White house officials, the cost of all the stimulus checks will be $13 billion. A large amount of money but don’t forget that the stimulus package for 2009 was almost $800 billion.

Why is the government doing this?

The government is giving out this money in order to try to stimulate the economy. Because of problems in the financial markets and housing markets over the last 2 years, there has been a slowdown in economic activity in America and many job losses. By putting extra money into the economy it is hoped that the decline of the economy can be slowed down or even reversed.

Will there be a Social Security raise this year?

No, in fact part of the reason the $250 bonus check was created was to make up for the fact that there is no cost of living raise in Social Security payments this year.

Will it be a check or electronic payment?

The $250 should be given to you in the same format you currently receive your regular Social Security payment. If you get your SS payment by check then the $250 will also be by check. If you get your SS payment deposited in to your bank account then the $250 will also be deposited into your bank account.

More information on Social Security

Social Security provides the average retiree with a monthly check of about $1,150. The program provides 40 percent of all income received by elderly people in the United States one in five older married couples and two in five older single people rely on it for at least 90 percent of their income.

Want to learn more about RESPs? Buy The Book:

The RESP Book: The Simple Guide to Registered Education Savings Plans

Everything you need to know about RESPs.

I need that money just as bad as yall need it. It will get here in all due time. My son dont have that much and with them cutting food stamps isnt easy either….

THE GAMES ARE ALMOST OVER I CANT WAIT TO SEE WHATS GOING TO HAPPEN.

they denied the 25o yesterday the 7 of December they turned it down big time witch sucks were on food stamps only getting a lousy 16 for two people how can two people live on 16 dollars we got ssi papers saying it will remain the same next year as well this sucks

If they turned it down it would be on news and it would be on http://www.ssa.gov website which it isnt. it would be on usa.gov or govtrack.com website which it is not either. I called my senator and they mentioned also that they didnt vote on that yet

they did turn it down its was on cnn news earlier today dude im telling u the truth it was at the bottom the senate house voted it down there gonna try it again that not major news so it wount be an subject its not like someone got killed its mnot a goverment issue they did turn it down thow

this confusing my local news said they failed it but the website says they passed it local county clerks office at 1032 am http://clerk.house.gov/floorsummary/floor.html?day=20101202&today=20101207

OK i was missed informed i called my friend dad that works at local news station they haven’t voted on it yet witch means they blocked it out that means they have turned it down nor passed yet but the blocked it so they probleay wont re-vote on in tel next year so yeah this sucks the reason why they did this because we got a check already almost two years ago

ANYTHING that has to do with social security stuff small or major THEY STILL HAVE TO POST IT ON WEBSITES MENTIONED ABOVE. AND PEOPLE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN LETTERS THAT SAY THAT ALSO……

[Update Dec 2010 – No $250 SSI Payment in 2010] Congress officially nixed a one-time payment of $250 in 2010 to Social Security recipients who haven’t received cost of living adjustments (COLA) since 2008. The cancellation of a $250 SSI payment in 2010 was justified on the basis of low inflation (see update below). But many seniors are feeling the pinch of inflation, especially around medical services — a big-ticket item for seniors. Many believe that the $250 payment would have been a good economic stimulus payment, since there’s a good chance that most of the $250 would be spent immediately.

While many seniors could easily survive without the $250, there are also millions of seniors who are struggling to make ends meet (just see the comments below in response to this article), particularly if they have high medical or disability costs. Congress really should have found a way to provide the $250 SSI payment to those seniors who truly need the money, instead of tax cuts for the super-rich

congress is the sole problem in our country of america, they could care less about the struggling people, they rule what ever they say goes.. and for the people that dont believe that well they have no common sense.as the old saying goes the rich get richer and the poor gets poorer. as long as congress has what they want its perfectly fine with them if we all have nothing.

THEY DONT CARE ABOUT THE POOR BUT THE OLD SAYIN IS WHAT GOES AROUND COME RIGHT ON BACK AROUND. AN IN THE BILBLE STATES THOSE WHO ARE IN THE FRONT ARE GOING TO THE BACK AN THOSE IN THE BACK IS COMIN TO THE FRONT SO DONT WORRIED GOD DONT COME WHEN YOU WANT BUT HIS ALWAYS ON TIME.

Please show me where it says that we aint getting nothing. Once again if something like that happened it would be on govtrack http://www.ssa.gov its not on none of the sites. Its not even on congress’s website.It would b on Social Securitys website.

My girlfriend got one check amount of $250 on December of 2010 Due to her disabilty back in 2007 and 2008. Now she working and when she did her tax this year, IRS took the $250 back. They said she did’t report.
It’s a loan for working people. 2010 +$250 2011 -$250= Check with your tax prep.

It’s funny that this website has the question “how much is this going to cost the government?” As if the government is an entity that is not comprised of the taxpayer, but is instead a magic money machine that produces dollars with no effect on the citizens of this country. I’m writing this in January 2011. My mother’s pension was raised $33., due to the federal taxes which are now repaying the BRILLIANT Stimulus Payment, she not only did not get an increase, but a decrease. I didn’t vote for the guy. I voted for the veteran who has a birth certificate and who has ALWAYS loved this country.

Does anyone know for shure if we are getting that big one time ssi stimuls payment . I’ve been all over the internet . Can anybody help . May 17 2011

are we getting a stimulus check like last year? how much of a raise will there be in social security for next year?

I got on ssi right after everyone received their stimulus checks for $250. I was backpaid upon approval, therefore I did qualify for the $250 but did not request one because I had not yet known that I would be approved. My question is, do I still qualify and is it too late to request it? Was it only a one time deal? Please help!


Obama’s Budget Proposal Mixes Help and Cuts for Older Americans

President Obama on Monday offered a $3.834 trillion budget that increased funding in some areas important to older Americans and cut in others.

His blueprint, which goes next to Congress, would spend $1.6 trillion more than it raises for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. The plan would limit increases in some areas of domestic spending, raise taxes on wealthy Americans, pump $100 billion into infrastructure projects like road building to revive the still-lagging economy and give small businesses tax incentives to hire employees.

“It’s time to hold Washington to the same standards families and businesses hold themselves,” Obama said Monday morning. “It’s time to save what we can, spend what we must, and live within our means once again.”

Republicans said they were disappointed in the plan. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement that it will raise federal payments on the debt to an average of $600 billion a year over the decade.

“But it’s now crystal-clear that this budget is more spending, more taxes and more debt,” McConnell said. “Anyone listening to the American people knows this isn’t what they support. It’s not what our country needs. And it’s not the way to grow good jobs.”

Obama had hoped to have a health care reform measure by now, but after stumbling near the finish line last month, the bill is on hold in Congress. Still, Obama’s budget chips away at reform, by proposing more funding for state Medicaid programs and beefing up other programs that bring down health care costs or expand accessibility.

The budget also aims to improve retirement saving through new workplace IRAs, savings tax credits and transparency requirements for retirement plans.

Though those programs will help many older Americans, said Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP executive vice president, she is concerned about the impact of cuts elsewhere in the budget and a proposed debt commission that could look at Social Security and Medicare benefits.

“While the administration’s budget request offers some welcome relief for older Americans who are struggling to find employment, strengthen their retirement nest eggs, and pay for rising health care costs, we need to make sure that broad efforts to cut spending don’t do more harm than good,” she said.

The White House’s three-year spending freeze, announced in the president’s State of the Union address last week, was applied to some programs but not others. It does not affect Social Security and Medicare benefits. The Social Security Administration would in fact get an 8 percent increase for its administrative costs, intended to make service faster, especially for new retirement and disability applicants. And Social Security recipients would get $250 each to offset the lack of a cost-of-living increase this year.

But the programs that were shielded from the freeze or even received increases were balanced out by cuts elsewhere. A program for housing for low-income older Americans would drop from $825 million this year to $274 million next year.

Douglas Rice, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says the cut reflects U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to reform the housing program for the elderly, which pays for new construction of housing for older low-income residents and for rental assistance. Current project residents would not see cuts, but new construction would not get money.

“It looks like HUD has been somewhat frustrated by the elderly housing program and is seeking to reform it,” Rice says.

That cut, though, is offset by increases for the Section 8 housing program, which provides aid to hundreds of thousands of older residents, Rice says.

Obama said the nation had started the decade with a surplus but now faces $12 trillion in debt. He blamed the Medicare prescription drug expansion and the tax cut programs from 2001 and 2003 for the $7.5 trillion debt he inherited. The recession added an additional $3 trillion, and Obama’s stimulus plan last year added $1 trillion. His budget rolls back the tax breaks for families earning more than $250,000.

Obama said his budget priorities reflect the “building blocks of the middle class.

“Americans are willing to work hard, and, in return, they expect to be able to find a good job, afford a home, send their children to world-class schools, receive high-quality and affordable health care, and enjoy retirement security in their later years,” he said.

Here are some of the programs for older Americans that would see increases under the budget:

Checks for $250. Obama proposed distributing $250 each to Social Security recipients because no cost-of-living adjustment is planned this year. Although inflation is negligible, older Americans still face rising costs such as health care. “It matters a lot to seniors on fixed incomes,” said David Sloane, AARP’s senior vice president for government relations and advocacy. And the money will be spent, which will help the economy.

Auto-IRA. Saving for retirement would get a lot easier for the 50 percent of workers who have no workplace retirement savings program now. Under the auto-IRA proposal, small businesses would get increased tax credits to administer new IRAs for their workers where retirement savings is automatically deducted from paychecks. Workers would be enrolled unless they proactively opted out. Studies show those programs make a big difference in getting people to save, Sloane said.

“This is one of our top priorities,” Sloane said. “If people don’t have an opportunity to save for their retirement, it will put pressure on the federal government,” to help them out later.

Tens of millions of workers without pensions would benefit from the automatic IRAs, the budget estimated. The White House also wants to make it easier for companies that have 401(k)s to adopt automatic enrollment, which is a particularly effective way to increase saving among low-income and minority workers. Automatic enrollment increases participation in 401(k) plans from 70 percent to about 90 percent.

Saver’s Credit. Families earning less than $85,000 would get more help under the saver’s credit. Their retirement savings would get a 50 percent federal match, up to $1,000.

401(k) Changes. The administration would beef up the transparency of 401(k)s so that savers have more information about fees and so that conflicts of interest with pension advisers are reduced. The White House also would make it easier to turn 401(k) assets into annuities that provide lifetime payments.

Veterans Payments. Obama would make a change for military retirees that veterans groups have been seeking for years. Currently, seriously disabled veterans who are retired from the services cannot receive both their disability payments from VA and their military pension. Obama would end that practice and allow them to receive both concurrently.

Caregivers. About $102.5 million would be set aside to help the “sandwich generation” that is caught between caring for kids and older parents. The money would beef up respite care for family members caring for older relatives. About 200,000 caregivers would get help if it passes Congress. And older Americans also would get more help with transportation, adult day care and other assistance designed to let them stay in their own homes.

Middle-class families taking care of older relatives (or children) also would see their tax breaks increase by $900 to $2,100.

“Caregiving takes a pretty significant toll on people—financially and emotionally,” said David Certner, AARP legislative policy director. “Getting relief is very helpful.”

Energy Assistance. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program would increase from $5.1 billion in 2010 to $5.3 billion in 2011 and include $2 billion for a new policy to increase aid when energy costs spike or large numbers of families are in poverty.

Food Assistance. Nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels would receive $828 million, an increase of $8 million. That adds up to about 219 million meals delivered to homes or community settings for 2.4 million older Americans.

Several small pieces of Obama’s health care reform measure are embedded in the budget. “They’re not going to just wait for health care reform,” says William Pierce, senior vice president of APCO Worldwide and a former senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Drugmaker Fees. For instance, Pierce says, Obama would levy a fee on drugmakers for generic drugs—similar to what the federal government already does for name-brand pharmaceuticals. The money would be used to speed up the process of getting new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “This signals a goal of the administration to bring more generics to the market,” Pierce says. “It clearly is an indication they are looking at cost reductions in health care.”

Medicaid Help. States would receive an extra $25.5 billion for Medicaid, the federal health program that assists low-income Americans, including those who are older or have disabilities. Obama had sought to do that as part of his reform plan to expand access to health care by adding moderate-income families to the Medicaid rolls. States have been asking for more money because the recession has made more people eligible for Medicaid just as state revenues have dropped.

Fighting Fraud. The budget also increases spending on preventing and detecting fraud in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That effort, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, will scout for improper payments and loopholes.

COBRA. Obama also would continue a program to help unemployed workers who have extended unemployment benefits pay to continue their health insurance coverage under COBRA. The aid runs out later this month without the extension.

“It’s absolutely critical, especially for older Americans,” AARP’s Sloane said. “It’s very relevant because it’s harder to buy individual insurance.”

This won’t be the last federal budget full of difficult tradeoffs, AARP’s Certner said. “There are some serious challenges out there: trying to get our fiscal house in order while trying to help millions in need,” Certer said. “We are anticipating a number of difficult budgets in the years ahead.”

Tamara Lytle was a correspondent and Washington bureau chief for the Orlando Sentinel from 1997 to 2008.


Today With President Barack Obama

Statement by the Press Secretary on the President's Hurricane Preparedness Briefing

“President Obama was briefed by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read, as well as five FEMA Regional Administrators adding their local prospective, on the outlook for hurricane season and the Federal government’s efforts to prepare all Federal partners, state and local governments, the private sector and the public for hurricanes and other emergencies.

Early today, NOAA announced it expects an “active to extremely active” hurricane season this year.

Under the President’s direction, the entire Federal family is working together to ensure not only that the Federal government is doing everything to prepare for the coming season, but that the public knows of the critical role they have in making sure they are prepared for storms and other emergencies, to include having up-to-date evacuation plans.

The President stressed that the government must ensure we consider the effects the BP oil spill could have on storms, response capabilities, and recovery efforts in planning for this year’s season but that those considerations do not change the primary mission of emergency management officials during a response, which is to support state efforts to protect lives and property.

In addition, the President urged that Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate continue to be in close contact with Governors, congressional delegations, and emergency managers in hurricane-prone states to ensure they have all the tools and resources needed to prepare for, respond to, and recover from any potential hurricanes.”

For a White House blog post by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on hurricane preparedness, please click HERE

Below is a list of attendees at today’s meeting:
Vice President Joe Biden
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate
NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco
National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan
Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner
Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes
OMB Director Peter Orzag
Deputy FEMA Administrator Rich Serino
FEMA Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery Bill Carwile
NOAA Director of Marine and Aviation Operations Center Rear Admiral Philip Kenul
Five FEMA Regional Administrators


Today With President Barack Obama

SUBJECT: Review of Discussions Relating to Congressman Sestak Recent press reports have reflected questions and speculation about discussions between White House staff and Congressman Joe Sestak in relation to his plans to run for the United States Senate. Our office has reviewed those discussions and claims made about them, focusing in particular on the suggestion that government positions may have been improperly offered to the Congressman to dissuade him from pursuing a Senate candidacy.

We have concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law.

Secretary of the Navy. It has been suggested that the Administration may have offered Congressman Sestak the position of Secretary of the Navy in the hope that he would accept the offer and abandon a Senate candidacy. This is false. The President announced his intent to nominate Ray Mabus to be Secretary of the Navy on March 26,2009, over a month before Senator Specter announced that he was becoming a member of the Democratic Party in late April. Mabus was confirmed in May. At no time was Congressman Sestak offered, nor did he seek, the position of Secretary of the Navy.

Uncompensated Advisory Board Options. We found that, as the Congressman has publicly and accurately stated, options for Executive Branch service were raised with him. Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified. The advisory positions discussed with Congressman Sestak, while important to the work of the Administration, would have been uncompensated.

White House staff did not discuss these options with Congressman Sestak. The White House Chief of Staff enlisted the support of former President Clinton who agreed to raise with Congressman Sestak options of service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board. Congressman Sestak declined the suggested alternatives, remaining committed to his Senate candidacy.

Relationship to Senate Campaign. It has been suggested that discussions of alternatives to the Senate campaign were improperly raised with the Congressman. There was no such impropriety. The Democratic Party leadership had a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight and a similarly legitimate concern about the Congressman vacating his seat in the House. By virtue of his career in public service, including distinguished military service, Congressman Sestak was viewed to be highly qualified to hold a range of advisory positions in which he could, while holding his House seat, have additional responsibilities of considerable potential interest to him and value to the Executive Branch.

There have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior Administrations -- both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals -- discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office. Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.


$250 Social Security Stimulus Checks are in the Mail

The social security stimulus package is on its way. The stimulus comes in the form of $250 checks for social security recipients. CNN reports:

An estimated 50 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive their one-time $250 economic stimulus check starting in early May — several weeks ahead of schedule, Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday.
Vice President Biden says the checks will “make a big difference” for older Americans and those with disabilities.

Vice President Biden says the checks will “make a big difference” for older Americans and those with disabilities. The $250 checks “will make a big difference in the lives of older Americans and people with disabilities — many of whom have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis that has swept across the country,” Biden said in a written statement.

“Big difference” is an overstatement, but it’s a nice gesture.


Indiana’s Lugar hustling in fight to keep Senate seat

INDIANAPOLIS - US Senator Richard Lugar, once seemingly unbeatable in Indiana, has been scrambling to reintroduce himself amid a barrage of attacks that he has lost touch - an argument his Tea Party challenger repeated yesterday outside the Indianapolis home the incumbent sold decades ago.

The Republican, who has spent 35 years in Washington, has been campaigning as though he was a rookie politico, trying to introduce himself to the masses and define his image before opponents do.

The charge by GOP challenger Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer, is the latest in a series of them levied against the Republican senator by an unlikely alliance of Democrats and conservatives.

The groups have joined forces to argue Lugar no longer has much to do with Indiana. Both sides sense political vulnerability from the state’s senior senator.


Today With President Barack Obama


The U.S. government response to the BP Oil Spill began immediately after the explosion on the night of April 20 as an emergency search-and-rescue mission. At approximately 10:30 p.m. that night, notification was received that Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) Deepwater Horizon had exploded and was on fire. The rig was located 45 miles southeast of Venice, La.

Establish Command Center to Address Potential Environmental Impacts

Concurrently, the administration also quickly establishes a command center on the Gulf Coast to address the potential environmental impact of the event and to coordinate with all state and local governments. Since this point, the administration has continuously anticipated and planned for a worst-case scenario.

NOAA Mobilizes to Provide Trajectory Support

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) mobilizes within three hours of the explosion and started to provide trajectory support and coordinated scientific weather and biological response services. The NOAA weather forecast office in Slidell, La., also provided weather information to the Coast Guard at its request shortly after the explosion to support initial search-and-rescue operations.

The President is alerted to the event and he begins actively monitoring the situation. At the time, it was known that 126 people were on the rig when the explosion occurred.

Total response vessels: Two Coast Guard cutters

Total response aircraft: Four helicopters and one rescue plane

Deputy Secretary of Interior David Hayes is Deployed to the Gulf Coast

The morning after the explosion, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar deployed Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes to the Gulf Coast to assist with coordination and response to the event, and provide hourly reports to Secretary Salazar and other administration officials.

Interagency Coordination Begins Across the Government, Federal On-Scene Coordinator is Named and Regional Response Team is Stood Up

Interagency coordination begins immediately among federal partners—including the Coast Guard the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Commerce (DOC), Interior (DOI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—providing federal assets and overseeing BP’s response. Pursuant to the National Contingency Plan, Rear Admiral Mary Landry was named the Federal On-Scene Coordinator and a Regional Response Team was stood up that included the U.S. Coast Guard, DHS, DOC/NOAA, DOI and the EPA, as well as state and local representatives. The Regional Response Team immediately began developing plans, providing technical advice and access to resources and equipment from its member agencies, and overseeing BP’s response.

The Administration Oversees BP’s Response

The administration begins holding meetings and regular calls with BP leadership to discuss BP’s response effort, as well as federal oversight and support, and urged BP to leverage additional assets to help respond to this event.

Interagency Joint DHS-DOI Investigation Begins

Secretary Salazar and Secretary Napolitano direct that a joint investigation begin into the cause of the event. The investigation, jointly led by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service (MMS), are given subpoena power, will hold public hearings, and call witnesses. MMS and USCG begin interviewing rig personnel.

National Park Service Plans Contingencies to Protect Vulnerable Parks Along Gulf Coast

The National Parks Service (NPS) Spill Response Coordinator, Regional Emergency Services Coordinator, and Deputy Chief of Emergency Services begin strategic planning of contingencies to protect potentially vulnerable national parks along the Gulf Coast. Read the entire timeline here


Friday, August 26, 2016

Middle-Aged People Should Probably Not Go to Graduate School: Conner v. U.S. Department of Education (March 28, 2016)

Wages for American workers have been stagnant for more than 20 years everyone knows that. In fact, many American workers have seen a decline in their real wages as inflation eats away at their paychecks.

A college degree supposedly enhances earnings, but not for everyone More than a third of college-educated workers are holding jobs that do not require a college degree.

As we drift into middle age, we search for ways to make more money. So why not go to graduate school? Maybe job opportunities will open up if we get an MBA. Or maybe we can unleash our creative capacity if we obain a master's degree in creative writing. Why not go to law school?

Of course, American colleges want people to think that going to graduate school is good career option. Undergraduate enrollments are declining at many universities--especially the second-tier liberal arts schools. The colleges have got to keep the money flowing, and many have been rolling out new graduate programs to enhance their revenues. Juicing up MBA programs has been a favorite strategy.

Graduate programs can be expensive, and most people who pursue graduate degrees have to take out student loans to finance their studies. But, hey--what could go wrong?

Age discrimination. Although federal laws protect people from age discrimination in the workplace, many employers discriminate against older workers. So if you are 45 years old and recently obtained a law degree or an MBA, you will be competing against much younger workers.

Law firms in particular are looking for bright young attorneys who have the drive and energy to work 80 hours a week. The firms like to mold their new hires into the firm's corporate culture, and it is easier to mold a 25-year old than a 45-year old. And the firms definitely discriminate in favor of people who graduated from top-ranked law schools.

So if you graduated from a second- or third-tier law school at age 45, the chances of landing a high-paying job at a blue-chip law firm are virtually zero. And if you borrowed $140,000 to get your law degree (the average amount of debt for new law graduates), you are in real trouble. In fact, your decision to borrow money to go to law school was probably a mistake.

Many graduate programs don't give students useful skills. Second, a lot of graduate programs do not teach skills that will enhance their students' marketability in the workplace. The United States now has hundreds of MBA programs, but I have talked with people who got MBA degrees from non-elite colleges, and several told me they didn't learn much.

I myself was a sucker. I enrolled in the doctoral program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, thinking a doctorate from Harvard would open doors for me that I couldn't open with just my law degree. In fact, I learned virtually nothing useful during my two years of study at Harvard other than the fact that HGSE is a pretty mediocre place.

Unsympathetic bankruptcy courts. Several recent bankruptcy court decisions have involved middle-aged people who accumulated a lot of debt going to graduate school. Some of these people argued that their advanced age should be considered--that they simply didn't have enough working years left to pay off their enormous student-loan debt.

But not all bankruptcy courts are sympathetic. In Conner v. U.S. Department of Education, for example, Patricia Monet Conner accumulated $214,000 in student-loan debt to pay for graduate education in three fields: business administration, communications, and education.

Conner was a school teacher who had an annual income of about $60,000 during the years before she filed bankruptcy, and she never made a single voluntary payment on her student loans. When she came before the bankruptcy court, Conner was 61 years old, and she argued that her advanced age should be considered in her favor.

But the bankruptcy court rejected Conner's argument and refused to discharge her student-loan debt.. Conner appealed, and a federal district court, was equally unsympathetic."[C]ourts have regularly held that one's age cannot form the bases of a favorable finding for a debtor who chooses to pursue an education later in life," the court ruled.

Conclusion: Middle-aged people should be very cautious about going to graduate school. Many Americans enter middle age not having achieved the goals they set for themselves when they were young. I myself am such a person. Going to graduate school may seem like a way to expand life opportunities--a second chance to obtain success.

But be very cautious. Gamblers who lose at the gaming tables often double down, hoping a big win will nullify their earlier losses. But unlucky gamblers who keep betting generally wind up losing more money. Universities, like the casinos, want you to think the odds are in your favor but in fact they are not.

I do not give this advice out of a sense of superiority. As I said, I made a big mistake going to Harvard in midlife only to find that some of my professors were not as smart as I am. I wound up with a mediocre education and a lot of debt.

Conner v. U.S. States Department of Education, Case No. 15-1-541, 2016 WL 1178264 (E.D. Mich. March 28, 2016).


Today With President Barack Obama

Obama speaking to gulf coast Govs. Jindal, Barbour, Riley, and Crist, this morning. WH statement on the call:

For all the local coverage of the oil spill, visit NOLA. Here's a transcript of the press briefing with Thad Allen and Carol Browner, assistant to POTUS on energy and climate change.

MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. As we get started today we're going to hear from a couple of different people that are working on the administration’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf. First you’ll hear from Admiral Allen, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

I will say as a point of introduction, though he rarely needs an introduction, he would normally be in Louisiana were it not for today. His vice commandant is retiring. Tomorrow he is leaving the command of the Coast Guard. But the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security have asked him to delay his retirement and continue to serve as the National Incident Commander for the spill in the Gulf.

So let me turn this over to Admiral Allen.

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Thank you very much. Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you here today. I thought I might start out by giving you a little background on the command-and-control system and how oil spills work. But first let me premise -- I would underscore what he said -- I’d much rather be down in Louisiana, the Gulf Coast, dealing with this problem down there because I know it’s of concern to everybody. And as somebody who has worked on the water all his life, nothing is more disturbing than oil on any water in our country.

The current paradigm for responding to oil spills really dates back to the legislation that was passed after the Exxon Valdez, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. It mandated a paradigm by which the responsible party or the spiller would be held accountable. It also created a oil spill liability trust fund to fund responses where there was no responsible party, or to fund operations and have those funds recouped from the responsible party.

It’s premised on the country being divided up into areas for the purpose of developing contingency plans. And we have these areas called captain of the port zones those are the Coast Guard commanders that are responsible for that area. They get together with the state and local stakeholders and they develop plans to protect the most sensitive areas within those areas, and they’re called area contingency plans. There is one for every single part of the coastline of the United States. There is one that covers the Gulf Coast as well.

When they have to activate a response, the local Coast Guard commander who is designated the federal on-scene coordinator coordinates with the state and local government and directs the responsible party in the cleanup. If the spill was inland, EPA would be the federal on-scene coordinator. The Coast Guard and EPA share that.

This entire framework is called the national contingency plan, and it is how we have prosecuted oil spills ever since the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. That is the way we have been prosecuting this case since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon on the 20th of April. Even in advance of the sinking of the drilling unit, we were staging equipment that was against the scenario we would have a worst-case spill. And we started actually mobilizing equipment, salvage engineers and everything right after the event happened into the 21st of April.

So the command-and-control structure down there right now is the commanding officer of the Coast Guard in New Orleans is the federal on-scene coordinator for the response. We have elevated that responsibility to Mary Landry. She is in Robert, Louisiana, and she is called an area unified commander. That’s when you take one or more of these zones or these areas and you combine them under a larger command.

So we have a single command in the Gulf. The commander is Rear Admiral Mary Landry. She is supervising subsections. One is New Orleans. The other one is over in Mobile, and Mobile covers Mississippi, Alabama, and the western portion of Florida. There is another command at St. Petersburg, and another one in Key West and around up the East Coast. At this point, they all, for the purpose of this response, report to the area command in Robert, Louisiana.

At a higher level we have what we call a regional response team. Those are all the federal players that have responsibilities for an oil spill response. It would be Department of Interior, EPA, Coast Guard, NOAA. And they look at resource requirements across a regional area. Let’s say if you had a decision of where to put boom between Mississippi, Alabama, or Louisiana, they would coordinate with the regional response team.

If something gets large enough where there’s a national issue about how much boom is in the entire country or where to move dispersants, it would come up to the national response team. And the national response team is the same players, except in Washington in the interagency. So, for instance, the Coast Guard is on the national response team. We co-chair it with EPA -- NOAA, Commerce, DOI, and so forth. So there’s a way to bring up resource issues or policy issues that cannot be resolved at the lowest level, and work those all the way up the chain.

There is also the allowance in the national contingency plan that if the resource adjudication process or the coordination becomes complicated -- and it’s complicated in this place -- in this case -- that the President has the option of declaring something called a spill of national significance. Again, this is contained in the national contingency plan, and also have the option to designate a national incident commander, which the President and Secretary Napolitano have designated me.

Now, this is not a policy. This is a command-and-control structure. It’s actually contained in the code of federal regulations that implement the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. So when you hear us talk about responsible party, or the
federal on-scene coordinator, we’re actually talking about legal definitions that are derived from statute -- the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 -- that are contained in 40 CFR 300.

So there are actual clear definitions, and I think sometimes we’re losing the distinction of what a responsible party or federal on-scene coordinator are. And we’d be glad to go through and answer questions related to the spill response, especially as it relates to BP’s role as a responsible party and the roles of the federal on-scene coordinator.

Would you like me to add anything else, or would you like to --

MR. GIBBS: That's a good intro. We’ll start with Mr. Feller.

Q Thank you. Thanks for being here, Admiral. Let me start on that point about who’s in charge and the quality of the response so far. Secretary Salazar said yesterday, referring to BP, “If we find that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately.” What does that mean, “push them out of the way”? What more could be done?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Well, I would say that's more of a metaphor. What we need to make sure is they execute their responsibilities, the responsible party, and we carry out our responsibilities and be accountable as the federal on-scene coordinators. This is what we do, is if something is going -- if BP is applying resources, there is an operation being conducted, and we want it to be done some other way, they’re issued an order by the federal on-scene coordinator, and they comply. And there have been adjustments made all the way along. And if I need to, I call Tony Hayward myself. They’re the responsible party, but we have the authority to direct.

Q Is there -- to this point, though, whether the government can do more, can it push BP out of the way if it feels like that company is not doing the job? What is your response to that?

ADMIRAL ALLEN : Well, to push BP out of the way would raise the question to replace them with what?

Q Do you think that this government right now is doing the best it can?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: I’ve been involved with the technical decisions made, especially in relation to deal with the leak, and they are pressing ahead. We are overseeing them. They're exhausting every technical means possible to deal with that leak.

Q Is there a solution?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: There are a number of solutions and they're doing them in sequence based on risk. The ultimate solution is going to be to drill a relief well, take the pressure off that well and cap it. That will be sometime in August. We don't want to wait that long. So we’re trying a series of interventions, starting with the insertion tube to evacuate the oil that we can, the top kill shot that will be scheduled for I believe early Wednesday now to try and force mud down the blowout preventer into the well to stop the pressure so it can be sealed.

There’s a series of events. They're trying the least risky ones first and moving on down. But we cannot stop. We’ve got to try every means at our -- every means that we can to stop this leak.

MR. GIBBS: Let me just add from the President’s perspective for this, Scott. As you heard the Admiral say, the President’s viewpoint is failsafe has to mean that. And if it doesn’t, then we have to examine why it doesn’t and the circumstances around that and have that impact our decisions going forward.

In terms of the reviews that the government is looking through to look back at what got us to this point, we have the President’s instruction for Secretary Salazar and the Department of Interior to report back to him. That will be Thursday. Thursday, the President will receive that report here at the White House.

There is a separate national engineering report on this incident. And as you know, the President set up an independent commission headed by a former EPA commissioner and a former U.S. senator from Florida that will be charged with looked at both the role of industry and the role of government in regulating industry. And the President I think has been very clear that we should not spare any expense in looking at both of those aspects of what may or may not have caused this.

Q I’m sorry, a question for you and also the Admiral. The President is receiving this report Thursday. Should we expect the President to respond to it immediately in some fashion?

MR. GIBBS: I expect that the President will speak to you all about it and answer some questions about it, yes.